Low GPA from top 20 physics program. Where should I apply?

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Joined: Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:20 pm

Low GPA from top 20 physics program. Where should I apply?

Post by Machachad » Mon Feb 17, 2020 4:49 pm

Hi, I'm an international student but got my undergrad degree in the U.S. My overall GPA is 3.3/4.0 and my physics (upper level) GPA is 3.3/4.0. I have research experience for 1 year and 8 months at quantum computing. I worked at least 10 hours per week during semesters and 20 hours per week during break. I worked with grad students most of the time. My role in this lab was taking measurements of samples and designing devices for experiments. 1 publication is coming up. I haven't taken GRE and PGRE yet. My boss and physics advisor are willing to write my ROLs. I want to know which university programs are my dream, realistic, safety programs as an experimental physicist. I transferred from a community college. So, GPA is based on my junior and senior years. My interests are in condensed matter and quantum computing. Is it possible to get into the top 30?
Last edited by Machachad on Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Low GPA from top 20 physics program. Where should I apply?

Post by geekusprimus » Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:02 pm

Go look through the applicant profiles. There's a lot more to schools being reaches, matches, or safeties than your GPA alone. Your GPA is somewhat on the low side for most people applying to physics grad school, but it's not dangerously low. Your PGRE score (or how you think you'll do after taking some practice tests as a guide) is also important, and the quality of your research is important. A year and eight months of research sounds like a lot, but was it 20 hours a week or a couple hours a week? Were you working independently most of that time, or were you just checking someone else's math? Do you have good enough relationships with your professors that you could get some strong LORs out of them?

Also, what schools are "safeties" and "reaches" depends a lot on what your research interests are. You said you're interested in experimental physics, which means you won't be fighting as many of the funding issues that theory has, but is that condensed matter, particle physics, quantum optics, or something else? Do you have personal connections to anyone you're interested in working with? If it's a large or particularly prestigious school, applying with an interest in their strongest fields is going to be more competitive because more people will be applying. If you look at a smaller or lesser-known school, strong fields might be easier to get into because there will be more funding.

Basically, without more information, none of us can really recommend good schools to you.

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